July 1, 2016

“Time is Right for Tackling Blocking Patents,” The Recorder, July 1, 2016

Laird PLC is in a lot of businesses. The London-based company’s product line ranges from antennas to power generators to precision metals.

A few years ago Laird set its sights on a new market: flexible graphite sheets for managing heat generated by microprocessors. But there was a potential obstacle. Competitor Graftech International Holdings Inc. was armed with patents covering the technology and a demonstrated willingness to assert them against others.

Laird outside counsel Matthew Cutler said companies facing such “blocking” patents historically have had three options: Stay out of the market, ask for a license (which might be refused), or jump in and await the inevitable patent infringement lawsuit.

Now, he said, there’s a fourth approach. If the patents look vulnerable, file a petition for Inter Partes Review.

Most companies wait until they’re sued to file an IPR. But Cutler said that, especially with the U.S. Supreme Court easing the test for awarding enhanced damages, the odds increasingly favor playing offense at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. “If you’re going to move forward with the product line in view of the patents out there, the IPR is a pretty good bet,” Cutler said.

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